Austin Glatthorn came from the USA to do his PhD at Southampton, and in 2013-14 he is spending a year in Germany after winning a prestigious studentship to complete archival research for his thesis. Here’s his report on how it’s going so far: Sometime late in the afternoon on 1 August 2013, I disembarked British Airways flight 0910 from London Heathrow into the Frankfurt International Airport. I hurried through immigration, grabbed my three bags and headed to the long distance train station to make my way to Göttingen, where the DAAD (Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst – the German Academic Exchange Service) were sending me for two months of intensive language courses.
I remember sitting on the train imagining what my year away from Southampton would be like and how I simply didn’t feel anything – I wasn’t nervous or anxious; happy to leave, or sad to go; excited or worried – for me it was just business as usual (I suppose after putting your material life into one 23-Kg suitcase and moving across an ocean to a country you’ve only been to once, filling three and moving across a channel to a country you’ve been to a few times is something of a luxury). That night I arrived in the small, medieval city of Göttingen (home to one of Germany’s most prestigious universities and a city that claims 44 Nobel Prize winners, one in every category except economics!), where I was to begin my 14-month research trip.
Last year I was awarded a “One-Year Grant for PhD Students, Postdocs, and Junior Academics” from the DAAD. This grant included two months of intensive language courses at the Goethe Insitut in Göttingen, as well as maintenance and course fees for a year of study at a German university. For me, the university was a clear choice: I wanted to spend time at the Johannes Gutenberg – Universität Mainz’s Institute for Musicology under the supervision of Professor Klaus Pietschmann, an expert in opera in German lands around 1800. Not only is Professor Pietschmann’s specialty perfect for my PhD project, Mainz also serves as a central location to many of the archives that I need to access for my research. Since August, I have completed my language courses (which have dramatically improved my German!), and am now settled down across the Rhine from Mainz in a city called Wiesbaden.
One of the most difficult aspects of the move was finding a flat and setting myself up (because I am staying only one year, it was hard to find a suitable place), however, I was lucky that the DAAD and the Goethe Institut found me accommodation while in Göttingen so that I was able to spend my free time looking for places in the Main/Rhine region. After an exhausting search I moved into my home for the next year in late September, a nice flat with plenty of space to work in Wiesbaden, the capital of Hessen. When I’m not working from home, I can hop on the bus around the corner that takes me very close to my office at the University. The University of Mainz was founded in 1477, but was closed for a few periods between its foundation and the present day. Currently, the University of Mainz has about 37,000 students and is located just out of the city center of the capital of Rhineland-Palatinate.
The Uni Mainz has a great music library, filled, naturally, with many German sources that were usually only accessible in the UK via Inter-Library Loan (if at all). These are all sources that I need to draw on for my PhD project, ‘Opera as Representational Culture in the Twilight of the Holy Roman Empire’. This study investigates the music culture of three cities: Mainz – the oldest and most important Electorate; Regensburg – the home of the Empire’s parliament; and Frankfurt am Main – the city of the imperial coronation as King of the Germans. These were crucial to the political stability of the Holy Roman Empire, an empire that has been marginalized for over a century, no thanks to Prussian and Habsburg-Austrian historians fighting for unification in the nineteenth century. It wasn’t until the last thirty years that historians began to investigate the Holy Roman Empire unburdened by attachment to subsequent historical narratives that used it as a tool to explain the formation of the Second and Third Reichs. It seems that musicology of this period hasn’t caught up (As the saying goes, ‘history is written by the victors’ and it seems with German unification, their music histories too). There is a plethora of articles, studies, and monographs about eighteenth-century musical life in Vienna, Berlin, and Prague; about Mozart, Haydn, and the young Beethoven. But what about the other 300-or-so lands that constituted the Empire? What about other important political centers? What about the other 99% of composer-musicians in the Empire? Although I cannot speak for all of these cultural centers, my study aims to help shrink this gap by investigating how musical choices made in the Empire’s other political centers articulated a Holy Roman Imperial ‘identity’.
Up until now I have been reviewing secondary resources (those that were hard or impossible to find while in England), attending supervisions from Professor Pietschmann, preparing for a few papers (in Germany and England), and making some trips to the archives. As I have been spending lots of time settling into my new life in Germany, I have not been able to get in as many trips to the archives as I had hoped I would in the first two months, but I am already prepared for the new year. Come January, I will begin making my way from Mainz down to Vienna via Bavaria, where I have a list of archives to visit and documents to see. This is the most crucial aspect of my research since these documents only exist in one place and are difficult and expensive to get without actually going and seeing them. A case in point is a reference to a description of a princely wedding festival that I found in a digitized eighteenth-century chronicle. Here the author noted that a beautiful description of the event could be purchased from the princely publisher for 12 Kreutzer. I was able to track down and visit the (perhaps only remaining) source in the court library of the Thurn und Taxis in Regensburg. This source mentioned over 14 instances of music in great detail, giving context to some pieces that I have been examining for nearly two years now.
My year in Germany is crucial to the successful (not to mention timely!) completion of my PhD project. Without the understanding of the University of Southampton, the hospitality of Universität Mainz, and the generosity of the DAAD, this project would be only an unrealized dream. I am very grateful to everyone involved in making my research a reality.